COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space using the example of articles published by Onet.pl, Wp.pl, Interia.pl, Wpolityce.pl, Gazeta.pl in the period between 24 May and 6 June 2021.
Below are presented the partial results of the monitoring conducted by the Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis as a part of the “Covid-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces” project and implemented during the period of 10 May – 29 August 2021.
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
- Reports of the delta variant of coronavirus and provision of a third dose of Pfizer vaccine in the near future.
- Problems regarding AstraZeneca: lack of interest among Poles to get vaccinated with this formulation (Brak chętnych na AstraZenecę. Milion wolnych terminów, Onet, 24.05.2021), delays in delivery (800 tys. szczepionek nie dotrze w tym tygodniu do Polski, Onet Wiadomości, 24.05.2021).
- Initiatives to encourage vaccination: campaigns at schools (K. Bogdańska, Szczepienie dzieci po wakacjach. Wielka akcja w szkołach, WP Wiadomości, 24.05.2021), nationwide lottery (To może być świetna zachęta do szczepień! Szef KPRM ogłosił loterię dla osób po szczepieniu. Będą też środki dla gmin. SPRAWDŹ, wPolityce.pl, 25.05.2021).
- Exposure of the activities of a Russian agency (Agencja z Rosji chciała zapłacić za „zniszczenie szczepionki Pfizer”, Interia Wydarzenia, 25.05.2021) that tried to bribe famous YouTubers from France to participate in a disinformation campaign about Pfizer vaccine in return for financial compensation. The creators were to make content containing false claims, showing alleged high mortality rates among those who had been injected with this formulation.
- An interview with a Polish employee at the East Stratcom Task Force about the fight with Russian disinformation (Polska szefową unijnego zespołu ds. walki z rosyjską dezinformacją. O co chodzi Kremlowi i na czym polega praca „łowcy trolli”?, wPolityce.pl, 29.05.2021). According to the intelligence force, Russians were trying to promote the Sputnik V vaccine at the expense of insinuating the ineffectiveness of Western formulations.
- Premise of possible vaccinations available to children aged 12 and over.
The media did not succumb to the propaganda, regardless of the monitored website. They largely encouraged vaccination, cited research results from international scientific institutions. As for the news on side-effects, they were either clearly stating that these were very rare or condemned manipulative practices (I. Pałczyńska, Jarosław Pinkas: Lekarze powinni przekonywać pacjentów do szczepień, a nie deprecjonować, Gazeta.pl, 25.05.2021). However, the wpolityce.pl website published two articles during this period, that could have been used to spread skepticism towards vaccinations.
First example of this type is the article entitled "Poles reluctant to get vaccinated? Dear scientists, stop insulting them! It has the opposite effect" [Polacy niechętnie się szczepią? Drodzy naukowcy, przestańcie ich obrażać! To działa dokładnie odwrotnie] (D. Łosiewicz, Polacy niechętnie się szczepią? Drodzy naukowcy, przestańcie ich obrażać! To działa dokładnie odwrotnie, wPolityce.pl, 26.05.2021). Despite the good points made in the quoted article from “Nature” weekly journal, the comments of the author of the piece featured on wpolityce.pl leave a lot to be desired. Although they were supported by scientific evidence, the following conclusions could have been used by the anti-vaccination movement to grow distrust of Polish people towards the recommendations of the government and doctors and to encourage non-compliance with sanitary restrictions:
- “This study is extremely important from the point of view of the discussion regarding the so-called collective immunity that we talk about so much, because it is clear that it does NOT depend solely on “shooting up” (a terrible word) the society.” [To badanie niezwykle istotne z punktu widzenia dyskusji o tzw. odporności zbiorowej, o której tak dużo mówimy, gdyż wyraźnie widać, że NIE zależy ona wyłącznie od „wyszczepienia” (okropne słowo) społeczeństwa.]
- “Although we know that vaccinated people can get sick and spread the virus anyway (as well as according to research results and official data of the Ministry of Health), and those unvaccinated can be immune and healthy, sanitary segregation is becoming a reality. This is proved by vaccine passports or work lay-offs. Furthermore, the witch hunt against people who have substantive doubts about vaccination, embedded in scientific research, while claiming to not be anti-vaccines (i.e. not questioning the sense of vaccination in general), but considering the benefits and risks resulting from immunization (...) has intensified” [Choć wiemy, że osoby zaszczepione i tak mogą chorować i roznosić wirusa (także wyniki badań i oficjalne dane MZ), a osoby niezaszczepione mogą być odporne i zdrowe, to segregacja sanitarna staje się faktem. Świadczą o tym paszporty szczepionkowe czy zwolnienia z pracy. Do tego na sile przybiera nagonka na osoby, mające merytoryczne wątpliwości odnoście szczepień, osadzone w naukowych badaniach, jednocześnie nie będące antyszczepionkowcami (czyli nie kwestionujące sensu szczepień w ogóle), ale ważące zyski i ryzyka, wynikające ze szczepienia (…)].
The second example is the article entitled "What is the future of ‘It's Worth Talking’? Pospieszalski: The editorial team is still on ‘quarantine’" [Co dalej z „Warto rozmawiać”? Pospieszalski: Redakcja wciąż na „kwarantannie”] (Co dalej z „Warto rozmawiać”? Pospieszalski: Redakcja wciąż na „kwarantannie”. „Pięcioosobowy zespół bez środków do życia”, wPolityce.pl, 03.06.2021). In the interview, Jan Pospieszalski criticized the inability to execute his show, and also mentioned that the invited doctors who had expressed doubts about vaccinations were later called and interrogated by the Supreme Medical Council. Pospieszalski gave the following argument:
- "(...) in his own show, he allows to present various opinions and stances in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences – including those slightly different from the position of the government, experts and consultants, whose knowledge and expertise of which is used by the Council of Ministers” [(…) w swoim programie pozwala na prezentowanie różnych opinii i stanowisk w kontekście pandemii koronawirusa i jej skutków - także tych nieco odmiennych od stanowiska rządu oraz ekspertów i doradców, z których wiedzy i doświadczenia korzysta Rada Ministrów].
Another statement made by Pospieszalski should be considered controversial as well: "The pandemic is slowly coming to an end, but the editorial office of ‘It's Worth Talking’ remains on quarantine” [Pandemia powoli się kończy, jednak redakcja „Warto rozmawiać” nadal pozostaje na kwarantannie]. In retrospect, there is no doubt that this was definitely an incorrect judgment, which could have also caused the readers to underestimate the pandemic, and thus have serious consequences in the form of its intensification.
Author: Raffaella Margaryan
Editorial supervision: Marta Kowalska
Graphic layout: Katarzyna Rogala
READ THE FULL REPORT: The article is part of the report: “COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces”, which we are about to publish soon.
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 10 May and 23 May 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 7-20 June 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 21 June and 4 July 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 5-18 July 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 19 July and 1 August 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 2-15 August 2021
- COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space in the period between 16-29 August 2021
The publication is part of the report: “COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces”. This report has been prepared with support from IRI's Beacon Project. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of IRI.